Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Infernal Instruments of the Dragon
As the British Empire builds power based on new clockwork and steam technology, Ireland draws its might from its potent magical traditions. Only two boys with little in common can end the fighting between the two nations and prevent a terrible worldwide war.
Gavin Haveland’s dreams are in the sky with the airships, while his reality as a High Councilman’s son means hiding secrets that will get him executed if revealed.
Orion of Oberon is not just a powerful mage, he’s the nephew of the Irish queen, and the one she’s sent him on a quest for the ancient Dragon Stones that will bolster her fading power. In the process, he might restore his family to their rightful place in society.
With enemies determined to stop them by any means necessary and war or peace hinging on their success, Gavin and Orion must find a way to work together, despite the centuries of mistrust between their nations.
Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley is the first that I read by this author and it won’t be the last. If for no other reason then this story is but the first in a new series, something that thrills me for several reasons which I’m going to go into here.
Gurley spends a good amount of time within his novel world building and it pays off. He has a world torn apart in the past by an all too powerful mage bent on world domination, the consequences of that horrific battle have come down through the ages, with an Ireland fiercely holding on to its magic and mystical energies and the land. While in England and beyond, steam power and coal is driving industry and the Empire forward. Such divergent natures and thoughts of living are written into every part of Gurley’s world, including those who would rebell.
Each side is represented by a young man. Gavin,a would be pilot of steamships, the son of a Counselor of England’s most powerful. And Orion, son of Oberon, mage, for the magical Ireland. Two sides of the coin of a broken realm that’s forever at battle with each other.
Gurley has laid them both with a giant tasks and several prophecies, only one of which is covered here, both are fated for greatness. And as this fast paced plot shows there are so many elements here that the author has just become to reveal.I love how the author cobbles together a sort of misfit gang to backup Gavin on his flight across London and success in his journey towards fulfilling his destiny. Oh my, Landa (a master artificer in a top hat quite won my heart), Wish, and what’s his name, right Lucas. Each with their own relationship issues with family and each other. Landa a girl who dresses/identifies as a boy (it’s never clear) nor practically steals the novel. I actually found Landa to be such a leading character, with such a strong identity and layered personality that she often put Gavin into the “pale” at times. So did her relationship with Wish, another steely, persistent, almost loutish types who wins you over. Then there is Lucas who just barely comes into his own at the end. Most of the time I couldn’t remember his name. The problem with this is that he’s the romantic other half for Gavin. Or supposed to be.
Then Orion arrives. And clearly that’s who Gavin is supposed to be with. Excerpt the author wants Lucas, at least in this book. And there is a Lucas wannabe named Riley for Orion back in fairyland. Just as bland with with little backstory for us so meh.
As you can tell, my issues with this story are with the romance relationships. Well four of the relationships. Gavin and Lucas. Orion and Riley. To be exact.
The rest of this novel? 5 stars worth of fantasy steampunk action adventure. That’s so well written and thoroughly enjoyed every word of it.
But when it came to write YA romance? Well, excerpt for Landa and Wish who are at the “at least you aren’t insulting me” stage anymore, the other two just don’t have any chemistry. We are told they do. But we don’t see it or at least I didn’t. We don’t get any feel for Riley other than he follows Orion around like a puppy dog, ditto Lucas for Gavin. In many respects you could switch those two out for each other. Only Gavin and Orion had a semblance of spark between them. It would have almost have been better to have left this without any romance but a total steampunk fantasy crossover. That would, imo, have left me feeling better at the end instead of resigned at what I felt was a banal ending for two couples.
Maybe the next story will fix that. Here’s hoping there’s still more to put aright with the world ….
Still, romance aside, the rest of this story is fantastic. A great mashup of fantasy, steampunk, magic, and action/adventure. I’m looking forward to the next installment Pick up this story and see what I’m excited about. And check out Landa!
Cover art, which is uncredited, show a disturbing trend in not matching the cover to anything that has to do with the subject matter of the story. Which includes magic, fae, flying ships, swords, steampunk and battles over London. Instead you get this with that metal heart. But really? Considering where it is for much of the story. Nah.
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Harmony Ink Press